Finished: Sleeping Dogs by Ed Gorman, 2008, 9780312367848.
Disappointing. I was expecting an evil protagonist politician with a secret he's killing to keep hidden. This is a well done book but I was hoping for something different with a cynical but realistic look at political campaigns.
Dev Conrad is a consultant to political campaigns. (Gorman never names party affiliation but Dev clearly works for Democratic candidates.) Dev knows that political consultants have a bad reputation but he works for clients whose politics he believes in. Senator Warren Nichols from Illinois is one of those candidates. Nichols is in a re-election campaign versus Congressman Lake. Lake is a goon but does well on television and in person.
Just four weeks before election day Nichols gets woozy and passes out during a televised debate. Creepy Lake plays the hero and assists Nichols there on the stage. Conrad suspects the Lake campaign of spiking Warren's drink. He investigates and comes across a well-known, and widely despised, dirty-tricks for hire guy. Dirty-Tricks claims innocence on the mickey but blackmails Nichols with a sex-tape of the married Nichols boning a chick. Nichols had promised up and down he was no longer a poon hound and Conrad is majorly pissed at Nichols' lying.
Things happen. Dirty-Tricks guy murdered. Conrad follows leads to discover the drink spiking. Nichols loves the ladies. Conrad strategizes and confronts Nichols several times. Red herrings discovered. Other things happen. Conrad figures it all out in the end.
A nice look at the inside of a political campaign and what different paid staff are responsible for.
EDIT: Not a lot of time is spent on Chicago and Illinois politics alone. This came out in early '08 before the Blagovich fiasco. But, Gorman does make mention of the previous Governor going to prison for corruption. Or maybe that was Sakey? Gorman does mention poor behavior by other politicians but names no names and may have just made it up anyway.
Gorman lives in Iowa and thanked a couple people for their help with Chicago and Illinois details. I wonder how much research he put into this? Some writers will pore over local detail and history and setting. Others are more concerned with character and story. I'd put Gorman in the latter category.